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2021-12-20 08:27:18

Local prosecutors in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region dismissed the arrest of a woman suspected of abducting an infant over three decades ago, saying it had “exceeded the prosecution period.” The decision came just over a week after another high-profile case associated with the trafficking of children triggered discussion about harsher penalties for so-called adoptive parents.

The Guangxi case surfaced after the biological parents sought to hold the family’s babysitter, surnamed Qin, accountable for abducting the then 5-month-old boy in January 1988, Sixth Tone’s sister publication reported Monday, citing the official notice released last week. However, prosecutors said it had surpassed the 10-year timeframe to prosecute crimes involving child abduction under Chinese law.

The time limitation stature in prosecuting child traffickers underscores the legal dilemma on imposing criminal penalties on couples — who mostly buy children and are at the end of the human trafficking chain — that raise abducted children. Qin had taken the child after knowing she was unable to conceive, and the latter’s identity wasn’t revealed until last year following DNA testing, according to the notice.

Zhang Baoyan, a National People’s Congress deputy dedicated to combating child kidnapping, proposed scrapping time limitations for legal action against child trafficking crimes in 2018. Some legal experts, however, raised concerns whether reopening decades-old cases would overwhelm the legal system both financially and logistically.

Zhao Liangshan, a senior partner at Shaanxi Hengda Law Firm, told Sixth Tone that the statute of limitations poses a major hindrance in punishing people suspected of child abduction, as many lost children are usually found after a significant period of time has passed. He added that the abducted children may also have fostered relationships with those who raised them, resulting in biological parents eventually giving up their claims of holding them accountable.

“These (factors) would lead to child abductors and traffickers taking a risk to commit crimes without being held legally accountable for various reasons,” Zhao said. “Prosecutors may relax time limitations in circumstances that are serious or where biological parents refuse to forgive, thus restricting related crimes.”

Meanwhile, the birth father of the child abducted in Guangxi told The Paper that the family will appeal the result of the case to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A photo of the kidnapped baby released by police. From @桂林警讯 on Weibo)